The private Family Theater at the White House is occasionally used by the president to rehearse major speeches, like the State of the Union address each January, but much more often it is where the First Family can watch just about any movie they please, "often sent direct from Hollywood before its release."
According to an adapted article from the Guardian Unlimited posted on the White House Museum website, many presidents have enjoyed private screenings of their favorite films in this luxurious theatre that features four large arm chairs and forty red upholstered seats. This is what the article reveals about some of the presidents' favorite flicks:
Dwight Eisenhower was obsessed with westerns...One of his particular favorites was the Gary Cooper film High Noon, but he would watch almost anything about cowboys...Because of his chronic back pain, John Kennedy's aides installed his favorite rocking chair in the middle of the front row. Later on, he had an orthopedic bed set up in the cinema, so he could watch propped up on pillows...
Richard Nixon saw most of his movies with the same person, his golfing and drinking buddy, Charles "Bebe" Rebozo, who came to the White House theatre 150 times...Their favorites, alongside Patton, were old-fashioned escapist musicals such as the ultra-patriotic Yankee Doodle Dandy, with James Cagney.
Starting with All the President's Men - about the Watergate scandal that ultimately brought him to office — Jimmy Carter held 480 screenings at the White House over four years...The devout Baptist started off insisting that only family films be shown, but eventually relented and became the first president to watch an X-rated film at the family theatre: Midnight Cowboy...
Ronald Reagan watched very few films at the White House. He and Nancy watched most of their movies on their weekends at Camp David, preferring Jimmy Stewart movies, High Noon (the president's favorite), and, on special occasions such as the president's birthday, his own films.
Bill Clinton also loved High Noon, but his taste in movies mirrored the style of his presidency. It ranged from the earnest and complex — Schindler's List and American Beauty were among his favorites — to simple and earthy, like the Naked Gun movies.
George Bush is a fan of the Austin Powers series and has been known to raise his little finger to his lips in imitation of the characters Dr Evil and Mini-Me. [After] the September 11 attacks, however, his viewing [became] more somber. In early 2002, after the worst of the fighting was over in Afghanistan and plans were being hatched to invade Iraq, President Bush watched more war movies, like We Were Soldiers, about Vietnam, and Ridley Scott's soldier's-eye view of Mogadishu in 1993, Black Hawk Down.
Like his predecessors, President Obama occasionally rehearses speeches in the Family Theatre and has enjoyed star-studded, pre-release screenings of such Hollywood blockbusters as Julie & Julia (with stars Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci in attendance) and Slumdog Millionaire, as well as the recent HBO miniseries "The Pacific," with executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks in attendance.
An avid sports fan, the president also hosted a Super Bowl party last year in the Family Theatre, where he and his guests tried out special 3D effects as they watched the Pittsburgh Steelers narrowly defeat the Arizona Cardinals by a score of 27-23. And when it came time for Super Bowl snacks, the president rolled up his sleeves and personally served Oatmeal Raisin cookies to his invited friends and guests.
Although that particular White House recipe is difficult to obtain, you can try this one from Martha Stewart if you'd like to serve some Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies at your next Family Movie Night or other fun social gathering:
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours and baking powder; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Add flour mixture, and stir to combine; mix in oats and currants.
Using two tablespoons of dough per cookie, roll into balls; place on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper, 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until lightly browned, 15to 17 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Cool 5 minutes on sheets, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 5 days.
FAST FACT: According to the White House Museum website, the Family Theatre "was converted in 1942 from a long cloakroom when the current East Wing building was constructed." Since then, some presidents have considered it to be the greatest perk of living in the White House, including Bill Clinton, who remarked, "The best perk out in the White House is not Air Force One or Camp David or anything else. It’s the wonderful movie theater I get here, because people send me these movies all the time.”